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Poetry and Medicine
September 6, 2000


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(9):1068. doi:10.1001/jama.284.9.1068

Sister Rose's voice stood out from the rest;
she sang Ave Maria as if there were no
beginning, no end, her notes carrying light into the
pomegranate skies, staying the sun itself from sliding
behind high convent walls, stopping the night,
which seemed to have lost the strength to
close the day. Her throat quivered, the veins
on her cheeks glowed, her hands were outflung
to the sky as if seeking reply. And as her lovely
strain lengthened, it seemed the whole world came
out of hiding and all was beautiful, life's meanings plain.
Evensong is heard faint from the little chapel,
drifting like petals into hospice rooms dimmed
by the night's sifting of the crumbling sun. The words
do not matter, it's the air of soft plaint that humbly stills
as the prayer sings out. Sister Rose is long gone but
her paean lingers on in the calls for morphine,
gentle yet strong, inviting what awaits. Here the answers
are known and the world is he, she, alone, yet in plain sight.
As the twilight notes end, dying with beauty, ringing with
clarity, the meanings of life, death, fade in the final groundswell,
much like Sister Rose's "Amen" as darkness fell.

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